The Single View Of The Customer is the subject of my latest musings, prompted by a number of recent customer meetings where the lyrics to US rock band Dream Theater's track You Not Me have been ringing in my head:

It's all about you - not me
It's all about the things that you're expecting me to be
There's not enough time - to live
And all that you're expecting me to give

Ah, that old chestnut I hear you sigh. The problem is that it keeps coming up in discussions about being "customer centric", which is indeed a laudable thing to be - if it's done for the right reasons. "We put the customer at the heart of everything we do" is a phrase that has used up more ink in your average strategy document than almost any other in recent years but increasingly I find myself asking why?

Why do you want a "single view of the customer"? Why do you want to be "customer centric"?

I'm not having an emperor's new clothes moment but it's an important question. Who are you doing this for - you or them?

Ah, there's the rub - because it's rarely, if ever, about the customer. This so called customer-centric strategy is actually all about you and whether you can cross-sell or upsell more effectively. It's about increasing metrics like average revenue per user (ARPU) or share of wallet. In fact, I would contend, the reason why so many of these initiatives fail is that they rarely consider the most important party - the customer.

They are invariably "inside out", i.e. something WE do because WE want more. They are about solutions that WE create and then point outwards, in the hope of engaging the customer. And when they fail, much like the Englishman on holiday who can't be understood locally, we just shout louder - building bigger programmes with loftier ambitions which are even less likely to connect with our customers.

But what if we changed - not just the narrative but the whole approach? What if we stopped thinking about us and started from a different premise? What does the customer really want? What do they need? How do we empower our customers? How do we give them the ability to engage with us and most importantly how do we then listen and respond? How do we become genuinely "Outside In"?

In many ways that’s what this digital stuff is all about - being responsive, adaptive, insightful and decisive. Placing the real power in the hands of your customers. Sure, you have to be able to make good on the "outside in" promise and also have the enterprise systems to transact and fulfil in a similarly responsive fashion. But success in this digital world requires the effective marriage of a company's outside in AND inside out capabilities. And not just from a technology perspective but across every element of the company - design, product management, operations et al.

In many ways it's about becoming a responsive and agile company that's geared around customer need.

So next time you're having that "customer centric" moment, ask yourself the most important question - is this all about you?